When I opened BJ’s Kountry Kitchen, it wasn’t an instant success. Honestly, there were days I doubted that customers wanted an old-fashioned, home-style meal cooked by cooks – not commissaries – and served by likable waitresses – not conveyor belts. Dating back to the 1980’s, fast food and chain coffee shops had most of the multi-billion dollar food business.
BJ’s Kountry Kitchen had a more modest goal – to cook meals no more complex nor costly than what hard-working people eat at home and serve it in a fast-paced, responsive restaurant. I pictured the locally-owned corner coffee shop with its cramped kitchen and well-lit dining room, comfortable booths, and waitresses flying between them with hot coffee and solid meals. The chili was going to be our own, the french toast was made from white bread – like home – and the menu variety wasn’t determined solely by considerations of profit, but according to our customers’ likes and dislikes. And perhaps, most importantly, I limited the hours from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., which gave us a single-shift, two-meal business to run: and the less hours open, the more time to do it right.